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Book Review: Dare to Love Again by Julie Lessman

#BookReview #ChristianFiction #HistoricalRomance

Betrayed in love one too many times, Allison McClare swears off men and determines to be independent. It’s when she chooses the wrong part of San Francisco to practice that independence that her uncle brings in an expert to teach her self-defense.

Nick Barone is the grouchy San Francisco police detective charged with keeping Allison safe, a job he finds detestable, not only because their personalities clash, but he can’t abide any member of the upper class.

Dare to Love Again

Dare to Love Again is the second book in Julie Lessman’s series The Heart of San Francisco. The first novel is in my library waiting to be read. After reading this one, though, I must move Love at Any Cost up in that ever-growing TBR stack. 

“Merciful Providence…I smell a rat!…She wrinkled her nose. The man kind.”

And so begins the relationship between Allison McClare and Nick Barone—long “e,” as he constantly reminds people. 

She has an insatiable urge to explore the Barbary Coast. He knows first-hand how dangerous it is. She insists on riding cable cars. He gets motion sickness. She’s part of San Francisco’s Nob Hill upper crust. He’s prejudiced against the wealthy and powerful. 

Nick deserves every syllable of the pet name Mr. Cranky Pants. At the beginning, his crotchety personality could easily be off-putting, but the author gave him a soft spot—the older ladies and orphans at the boarding house where he lives. In fact, his soft spot is for the downtrodden and those who have been treated unjustly. While reading, I kept picturing the main character of John in the current Fox TV series Almost Human. I could see Nick groaning, grunting, and scowling in the same way. 

The boarding house happens to be next to the school where Allison (“Miss Snob Hill”) is a teacher. Allison has a heart for those in need, too, especially the orphans. But her heart has been broken too many times by suitors to not fear it happening again, so she throws herself into her work and the desire to experience the city around her.

There’s a funny section where the hero and heroine are trying to form a truce. Allison says, “Please forgive me, Mr. Barone, for losing my temper with you that first day…No matter how correct my assessment may have been, it was wrong for me to call you a Neanderthal, brainless caveman, polecat, half-wit, pea brain, cave dweller, unsavory baboon…” and the list goes on for another four and a half lines. All Nick can say is “I don’t remember you calling me all those names.” Then she turns around and tells him he has animal-cracker breath that makes him smell like a “hooligan little boy.” Really, it’s a wonder these two ever get together.

Okay, now I know you’re thinking they do nothing but call each other names, but we’re talking Julie Lessman here, the reputed queen of passion, so never fear.

While I don’t want to give anything away, I will admit I had an issue with Nick and his past. The explanation at the end came out of the blue, and I found it a bit too at odds with the way his character had been set up throughout the book. His inner thoughts, dialogue, goals, and relationships—nothing prepared me for the real Nick, and it was jarring to me. 

Otherwise, I enjoyed this story. It was fun, romantic, and rich with historical detail. So dare to explore San Francisco 1903 with two people who must put aside their fears and prejudices before they can Dare to Love Again.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This book came to me free from the publisher, Revell, with the hope that I would mention it on this blog. There was no requirement for me to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed above are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

As an author of heartwarming historical and contemporary romance, Sandra Ardoin engages readers with page-turning stories of love and faith. Rarely out of reach of a book, she's also an armchair sports enthusiast, country music listener, and seldom says no to eating out.

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